Understanding the extension for Alain VigneaultFebruary 3, 2017, by
Earlier this week, the Rangers extended head coach Alain Vigneault’s contract another two years through the 2019-2020 season. The timing was a bit odd, as AV still had another full year on his initial deal and was fresh off a pretty embarrassing playoff defeat last season. But it’s tough to argue with AV’s success with the Rangers. He sports a 175-97-23, good for a .632 win percentage.
AV is a very smart coach. His systems on the ice generate solid offense. There’s a reason why he is as successful as he is. It’s not just dumb luck. But he is not a perfect coach. His flaws not only overshadow his successes, but follow him from team to team.
The biggest flaws that have plagued AV are his evaluation of defensive talent and his stubborn loyalty to “his guys.” This has created a stigma that he will follow his own guys to the bottom of the standings. It’s tough to really argue with this, as it’s what ran him out of town in Vancouver and has made him wildly unpopular the past two seasons in New York.
There’s plenty of evidence to support this, as Tanner Glass routinely found himself in the lineup over significantly more skilled players. AV has moved past Glass, as GM Jeff Gorton has created a lineup that has 15 forwards better than Glass that fit AV’s systems better. However AV has yet to move past the Dan Girardi/Kevin Klein duo, that have been downright awful this year and in years past.
Perhaps it’s a matter of Gorton replacing the aging veterans with players that fit the mold. But if that were the case, why hasn’t Adam Clendening, who is no worse than Klein in the defensive zone this year, getting more time? Once again, signs point to AV sticking with his guys no matter what.
It is likely two-fold. The first is AV recognizing that when presented with better options, he needs to move past his guys. The second is on Gorton to force his hand, as he did with Glass this year.
Beyond roster decisions, there are many questions regarding AV and his ability to win that fourth game in June. He fell short in Vancouver and in New York, and saw both teams regress to playoff jokes soon thereafter. That is certainly troubling, given the concerns noted above
Joe Fortunato at Blueshirt Banter said it best, AV is a good coach, but he may not be the coach. And don’t let the flaws fool you, AV is certainly a good coach. However those flaws stick out like a sore thumb. Maybe Jeff Gorton needs to provide him with better players before he can move on. Until we see what happens with the blue line personnel, the extension isn’t something I’m worrying about.